Pizza Today - October 2022 - 37

There are more ways to make vodka
sauce than there are galaxies in the sky.
Just read the glorious online promises
from bloggers and writers exalting their
recipes with " best ever " or " perfect way. "
Other recipes are peppered with " simple
trick " or " transformative " and even
" positively magical. " Penne alla Vodka
is one of the most popular pasta dishes
in the United States, but there is a huge
difference between making a plate of
pasta in a controlled recipe kitchen and
making sixty pasta plates an hour in the
hot chaos of a real restaurant. It is in this
frenetic insanity where the restaurant
chef shines, because their only concern is
the sauce, the pasta and the dish. This is
where vodka sauce gets personal.
Shaken, not stirred
The history of vodka sauce is as
complex as the flavor itself and shaky at
best. One claim is from James Doty, a
Columbia University graduate student.
Dante Restaurant in Bologna, Italy, is
proud to say that their chef invented
the dish, but there is a Roman chef that
says he invented Penne alla Vodka to
popularize vodka in Italy where wine is
king. Others say it was an invention by
Italian American chef Luigi Franzese of
Orsini restaurant in New York. Whatever
you believe, the combination of pasta,
tomatoes, cream, cheese and vodka is
genius. This explains why it is the fourth
most popular pasta dish in America
according to Taste Atlas.
Smirnoff the Makeup
Many pasta aficionados say that
the addition of vodka both elevates
the tomato flavor and makes the
sauce creamier. Vodka, like other
distilled spirits, enhances the release of
fruity esters and other aromas at low
percentages because the alcohol molecules
have a slightly sweet taste and a pungent
hotness. As the alcohol is cooked off in
the sauce, the sweetness of the tomatoes
is enhanced while the bitterness of the
boozy alcohol taste disappears, leaving
only a nuanced touch of heat.
On the flip side of this, famous author
and teacher James Peterson says in his
James Beard Award-winning Book
Sauces: " Vodka is useless in sauce making
because it is a completely neutral-tasting
product. "
Vodka sauce is a distant cousin to
Sauce Aurore, which means sunrise
in French and was a specialty of Chef
Giovanni de Negris at La Primavera
restaurant in Chicago. He paired his
tomato puree with a thick béchamel and
a medley of vegetables and proteins. It
can also be made with tomato puree and
sauce velouté (or a sauce supreme).
Expand your Vodkabulary
Let's get down and dirty and muddle
through the many ways that chefs put
their individual flavor branding upon
vodka cream sauce.
* Penne vs. Rigatoni: Both tube-shaped
pastas are used in restaurants. Some say
that penne cooks better in a sauté pan
by keeping its shape under high heat.
Others say that rigatoni holds the sauce
and cheese better, allowing the eater more
flavorful punch per forkful.
* Many cooks demand only fresh
tomatoes in vodka sauce, while others
say that canned tomatoes are just as good
and allow for consistency on the pasta
line. Whole San Marzano tomatoes
are sometimes used, but I prefer the
plum tomatoes from California for their
sweetness and dense flesh. You can run
either type of whole tomatoes through a
food mill or just break them apart with
their hands for a chunkier sauce.
* Numerous recipes call for both butter
and olive oil while sautéing diced onions.
A trick from the old timers in Italy is to
always put the onions in the pan before
the fats heat up. This ensures a better
amalgamation of the allium flavor base as
the onions heat up.
* Many recipes call for a smoky fat start
like pancetta, bacon or even prosciutto
di Parma. Added before the onions to
give more flavor pleasure to carnivores.
Others, like me, add Prosciutto di Parma
cracklings to add extra crunchy and meaty
texture to each forkful.
* Some people like to add two or three
smashed garlic cloves to the sautéing
onions for that extra burst of flavor while
others, like Chef Joe Bianco, swears
by putting a whole large sprig of basil
immediately after adding the vodka to the
sauce.
* Add a touch of excitement by
throwing in a pinch of red pepper flakes
while sautéing.
* Many restaurants cook the penne very
al dente or partially cooked and do not
rinse the pasta, ensuring that the starches
add more creaminess to the sauce. They
then add the pasta to the heated sauce,
then pasta water and cook the pasta for
an extended period in the sauce, followed
by the Parmigiano or Romano cheeses
only after the heat has been turned off.
* Some old Italian chefs have a secret
of tossing grated Parmigiano or Romano
directly on just-cooked pasta before
adding the heated sauce. This ensures that
each pasta piece is coated with cheese.
Absolute Flavor
Many see vodka as a good partner for
other foods. Here are some flavors that
pair well with vodka: sugar, lemon and
lime juice, green olives, beef consommé,
apples, ginger, horseradish, cucumber,
beet, caraway, celery, carrot juice,
pineapple, cilantro, berries, black pepper,
oats, melon, mango and vanilla.
Here are a few dishes that show the
flexibility of a good vodka cream sauce:
*
Paglia e Fieno with Prawns and
Vodka
* Veal Agnolotti with Gorgonzola
Vodka sauce
*
*
*
Penne alla Vodka with Spinach and
Chicken
Farfelle with Pancetta and Vodka
Cream
Linguine with Lobster Vodka sauce
* Vodka Creamed Chicken Wings
*
Shrimp Cannelloni with Vodka
Basil sauce
RIGATONI WITH VODKA SAUCE
AND PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA
CRACKLINGS
This is probably the best pasta I've ever
made. This version takes shape with the little
nuggets and tips from my years in kitchens
and talking to chefs. Adding pasta water to the
sauce rewards you with a wonderfully luscious
sauce and the small chunks of tomato flesh

Pizza Today - October 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pizza Today - October 2022

Pizza Today - October 2022 - CT1
Pizza Today - October 2022 - CT2
Pizza Today - October 2022 - Cover1
Pizza Today - October 2022 - Cover2
Pizza Today - October 2022 - 3
Pizza Today - October 2022 - 4
Pizza Today - October 2022 - 5
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Pizza Today - October 2022 - PPNE1
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